Mouth cancer drug gets NICE thumbs up

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today issued a Final Appraisal Determination (FAD) recommending the use of cetuximab (Erbitux®) in combination with radiotherapy for the treatment of locally advanced head and neck cancer in patients for whom platinum-based chemoradiotheraphy is inappropriate.

Cetuximab is the first new treatment in more than 40 years that significantly prolongs patient’s survival and control of the disease.

This news follows the Mouth Cancer Foundation’s successful appeal last year to the Appeal Panel of NICE to ask its Appraisal Committee’s to reverse its previous appraisal decision not to recommend the drug for head and neck cancer patients in England and Wales in May 2007.

The Appraisal Committee accepted that cetuximab plus radiotherapy caused less severe adverse effects than the chemoradiotherapy regimens.

This announcement means that patients with head and neck cancer in England and Wales will soon have access to this life-saving treatment like patients in Scotland already do.
Once the full guidance has been published, expected on 29 May 2008, it will be available across the NHS within three months.  

Dr Vinod Joshi of the Mouth Cancer Foundation said: ‘The Mouth Cancer Foundation welcomes NICE’s decision.

‘It is something that oncologists and patients alike have been fighting for.

It will go a long way to correcting the present postcode lottery in head and neck cancer for patients in the UK.’

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